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Social and Public Policy (MSc)

1 year (full-time) / 2 years (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

Course Aims

The MSc in Social and Public Policy aims to equip students with the theoretical, conceptual and analytical tools to examine contemporary social and public policies in both national and international contexts. It will enable students to draw on theories and concepts and interpret a range of forms of evidence in analysing policy developments and their social impacts. Students will conduct their own analysis and will present these in written work and oral presentations. In addition to specialist modules which deepen students’ understandings of social and public policy analysis, students will undertake modules in social science and research methods. The skills developed on these modules will enable students to complete their own dissertation on a social or public policy topic of their choice.

Special Features

The MSc in Social and Public Policy is one of the few such courses which offered by an interdisciplinary School of Social Sciences. As such, the approach to social and public policy offered here is shaped by a strong belief in the value of interdisciplinary social science theory and research and the importance of understanding the relationship between social and public policy and the other social sciences.

Course Description

The MSc in Social and Public Policy is an ideal course for students who want to develop their capacity to analyse social and public policies nationally and internationally. It enables students to deepen their understanding of the major aspects of social and public policy, including competing conceptions of citizenship and how these inform social policy; contemporary forms of governance and public policy implementation, and the use of theories and research evidence to analyse and explain social and public policy change. The course is suitable for students who have recently completed undergraduate courses of study, as well as those working in the community and voluntary sector, think-tanks, as researchers, or at different levels of government. The MSc in Social and Public Policy has been designed to be of value and relevance to students both from the UK and overseas, so interested individuals from all nations are encouraged to apply.

Course Structure

The MSc in Social and Public Policy is organised around a sequence of up to three 20 credit specialist modules, two 30-credit modules in social science theory and research methods, and one 60 credit supervised dissertation on a social or public policy topic of your choice.

The school currently offers specialist social and public policy modules on the following topics, although these may change from year to year:

International and Comparative Social and Public Policy

International and Comparative Social and Public Policy (20 credits)

This module examines social and public policies in an international and comparative context, focusing on a number of thematic areas such as welfare state change, climate change, and equal opportunities. It examines the methodological challenges of conducting comparative analysis, analyses competing theories which explain social and public policy change, and draws on case studies and empirical evidence to assess the validity of these competing theories. By the end of the module, students should have enhanced their knowledge in terms of the methodological issues in conducting comparative analysis and deepened their understanding of international and comparative social and public policy, and should have enhanced their own ability to conduct international and comparative analyses of social and public policy.

Participative Citizenship

Participative Citizenship (20 credits)

The module explores the concept of citizenship and analyses policies which seek to grant and expand citizenship rights. The module starts with the theoretical foundations of the concept of citizenship, drawing in particular on the work of T.H. Marshall and the ways in the concept of citizenship influenced social and public policies in the twentieth century. The module subsequently analyses the differing ways in which citizenship has come to be understood, focusing both on conceptual debates and about the nature of the good as well as functional changes arising from the ongoing devolution of powers within the UK and the increasingly prominent role played by the European Union in the affairs of its Member States.

Democracy and Governance

Democracy and Governance (20 credits)

This module explores the concept of governance and its implications for policy-making with reference to issues including representation, accountability, and legitimacy. Attention centres on the twin notions of ‘multi-level’ and ‘inclusive’ governance. The latter term signifies attempts to address the longstanding patterns of marginalization and discrimination experienced by a variety of social groupings. Accordingly, it uses a range of theoretical perspectives and explores empirical studies that relate to the public, private and voluntary sectors. These enable an informed analysis of attempts to reframe governance in ways that further democracy, span different sectors and tiers of government, and address diverse needs.

In addition to specialist modules in social and public policy, all students are also required to take two 30 credit modules in social science theory and research methods. These modules are:

Principles and Practices of Research Design

Principles and Practices of Research Design (30 credits)

This module provides students with an introduction to the principles and practice of social science research design and methods. It introduces students to the main data collection methods used in social sciences and provides a common grounding in how to critically evaluate the research of others and make appropriate choices in their own research projects, enabling them to specify, design and conduct a research project. Seminars in this module help students understand how to apply research principles and practices to the field of social and public policy in particular.

Critical Perspectives in Social Science

Critical Perspectives in Social Science (30 credits)

This module introduces students to, and advances their understanding of, some of the leading theoretical perspectives and concepts in the social sciences. The module draws on a range of sociological theoretical perspectives and conceptualisations (for example equality, power, values, gender, ethnicity, class and social reproduction) to explore the ways in which theoretical insight can add insight and understanding to our knowledge of the social world and everyday practice. Seminars in this module help students understand how to apply theoretical perspectives and concepts to the field of social and public policy in particular.


Dissertation (60 credits)

Finally, all students in the MSc in Social and Public Policy are asked to produce a 60-credit, 12,000 word dissertation on a social or public policy topic of their choice. This dissertation involves a small scale independent piece of research, and enables students to develop their interests in a substantive area related to the programme, and to put into practice the knowledge and skills developed through participation in the taught modules. Each student will be allocated a personal dissertation supervisor to assist in planning, conducting and writing up the research project.

Teaching Methods

Modules on the MSc in Social and Public Policy are delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops and independent guided study, and offer extensive opportunities for small group learning. Some modules involve weekly meetings over the course of a three month academic semester, whilst others are offered as intensive three-day learning events. Some modules are offered only in the Autumn semester, and others only in the Spring semester. Modules are assessed by a combination of essays, reports, reviews and presentations. There are no examinations.

Skills Acquired

On successfully completing the MSc in Social and Public Policy, you will have significantly enhanced your ability to:

Entry Requirements

Applicants should normally hold a first- or second-class undergraduate degree in a humanities or social sciences subject. However, other applicants will be considered if they can demonstrate, through recent and relevant experience, that they have the ability to undertake the course.

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to obtain a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.5 with at least 6.5 in writing, and at least 5.5 in all other sub-sections.

Further Information & How to Apply

Applications should be made via the Online Applications Service. Please make sure that you explain clearly in your personal statement why you are interested in applying to this MSc in Social and Public Policy at Cardiff University.

In your statement, you should refer explicitly to the course and module content outlined above and should explain clearly the particular aspects of this course that most interest you, and what topics or themes you are hoping to learn more about in taking it. If this information is not included, this may cause delays in processing your application, and the School may contact you with a request for further information.

There deadline for applications to this course for international applicants is 1 August; for other applicants, the deadline for applications in 1 September. The different dates are due to the need to allow sufficient time for visa processing for international applicants.

Tuition Fees 2016/17

Fees quoted are for the academic session 2016/17. For programmes lasting more than one year, tuition fees for subsequent years of study are subject to an increase of no more than 4.5% per year.

  UK & EU International
Full-time £6,000 £14,500
Part-time £3,000 £7,250
Deposit n/a Includes a £1,000 deposit. More information about our deposit policy.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Dr Rod Hick  

Telephone: +44(0) 29 2087 4957 



School Website:

School Contact

Name: SOCSI Taught Masters Administrator  

Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 0284 / +44 (0)29 2087 5178  



School Website:

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